In the Hunt: Ridin' wolf gravy train

lk foundation’s predator-hating rhetoric is good for its bottom line
2012-03-29T06:45:00Z 2012-03-29T09:42:49Z In the Hunt: Ridin' wolf gravy train Montana Standard
March 29, 2012 6:45 am

If you want healthy elk populations, the key is more aggressive killing of predators, especially wolves.

At least that’s the message from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which announced last week that it will be putting up $50,000 to help fund efforts to kill more wolves. The money would go to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to help pay U.S. Wildlife Services, the agency contracted to kill wolves when they get into trouble with livestock.

The foundation also said it would ask for donations for the wolf killing, and the money wouldn’t pull from the group’s other conservation efforts. But it’s just the latest effort to blame wolves, which it turns out can be pretty lucrative as a fundraiser.

And the foundation isn’t limiting its ire to wolves.

David Allen, RMEF president, said his group wants fewer black bears, mountain lions, wolves and coyotes. And he said the state needs to look at killing grizzly bears — which remain on the federal Endangered Species List — because they prey on elk calves.

“We can’t have all these predators with little aggressive management and expect to have ample game herds and sell hunting tags and generate revenue that supports (the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks) nearly

100 percent,” Allen told the Missoulian newspaper.

What a sad statement from a once-proud conservation organization. But this isn’t Allen’s first time joining the predator-bashing chorus.

For several years now he’s used terms like “annihilation,” “decimation” and “wildlife disaster” when describing elk herds where wolves are found. It’s the same rhetoric I’ve grown accustomed to hearing from kooks on the Internet. The problem is it has no basis in fact — at least according to the elk foundation’s 2011 hunting forecast.

Based on state game agency data, it estimated there are nearly 1.2 million elk in North America. That same forecast blasted animal rights activists saying they had “cherry-picked, manipulated and misrepresented” the numbers in an effort to keep wolves on the ESA perpetually. It also said wolves had “decimated” some of the northern Rockies’ great herds and for hunters to expect “tough hunting” in those areas.

That contradicts statements the foundation made three years ago, when it issued a press release touting its role over 25 years in helping boost elk herds. Allen stated that “growth in elk populations is one measure of our success.” The number of elk in 2009

was 1.03 million across the continent.

I’d say it’s speaking out of both sides of your mouth to pat yourself on the back when elk reach 1 million continent-wide and turn around and blast predators for killing too many elk when we have

1.2 million. In Montana, the herd estimate held steady at 150,000 animals from 2009 to 2011.

I’m sure the foundation would say losses to wolves are localized and in some cases severe. Often, the wolf haters point to the elk herd in northern Yellowstone National Park that migrates into Montana near Gardiner as an example of one that’s suffered from wolves. It’s been reduced from 19,000 animals in 1992 to about 4,100 today.

But that herd was grossly overpopulated. And at more than 4,000 animals, it’s still healthy.

Maybe what the foundation wants are the good old days, when hundreds of elk poured out of the park’s northern boundary into a firing line of hunters. That wasn’t an elk hunt – it was a disgrace.

As anyone who gets out of his or her vehicle and actually hunts knows, Montana has abundant elk. The hunting is a little harder in areas where wolves are. But when isn’t elk hunting tough?

The foundation also left out a major source of predation on elk in Montana — the 2003 Legislature. It mandated that FWP reduce numbers and since then we’ve been pounding elk with second tags, extended seasons and liberal regulations. Where’s the outrage about that over predation?

Clearly, the elk foundation’s use of predator-hating rhetoric is good for the bottom line.

Last month the group boasted of its “record-high membership” and “strong fiscal performance.” The same news release talked about the upcoming predator campaign and said “wolf, bear, lion and coyote populations are well above science-based objectives in many areas.”

When asked, the foundation cited itself as a source. Yet I had no idea the group has the staff biologists to count predator populations and authority to set seasons.

And it’s not like these species aren’t already managed. We’ve been hunting mountain lions and black bears for years. Coyotes can be shot on sight. And grizzly bears, while doing well, remain under federal protection.

Then there’s the hated wolf. We’ve only hunted this predator two years since its reintroduction. It takes time for wildlife professionals to craft a hunt that meets objectives, especially with a new species. To decry this year’s hunt as a failure because we didn’t reach the 220 wolf total quota is ridiculous.

Instead of bashing wolves, the foundation should take pride in their recovery. After all, the only reason wolves can live in the northern Rockies is the abundance of prey – including elk – and the foundation has played an important role in those species larger numbers through habitat acquisition and improvement.

In fairness, the foundation isn’t the only group to get on the wolf gravy train. Who could forget 2009, when Defenders of Wildlife used images of cute wolf puppies while decrying the “slaughter” of wolves in Montana’s first-ever hunt.

But the argument that they did it first doesn’t justify exploiting wolves as a money maker.

I expect a higher standard from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Reporter Nick Gevock may be reached at

Copyright 2015 Montana Standard. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(18) Comments

  1. MT5thgenerationHunter
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    MT5thgenerationHunter - April 08, 2012 11:11 am
    substandard said: "Maybe I'm missing something, but if you think there are too many wolves, you could do something about it. Legally. You've been waiting literally for decades for this chance and now you have it. YOU CAN BUY A WOLF TAG AND SHOOT ONE. And yet, you only killed about 60 percent of the statewide quota for 2011. Is it too difficult? Do you need someone to do it for you? Maybe, like elk hunting, it requires you to get out of your trucks or off of your 4-wheelers to do it right. Quit whining and put your money where your mouths are. "Smoke a pack a day", "Shoot, shovel, and shut up." Shut up indeed."

    Actually many people did. In several wolf areas MFWP had low quotas that were met early. We want the quota eliminated from these areas and want Wolves declared predators. then we could shoot them on sight, whenever, wherever.
  2. substandard
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    substandard - April 03, 2012 4:41 pm
    Maybe I'm missing something, but if you think there are too many wolves, you could do something about it. Legally. You've been waiting literally for decades for this chance and now you have it. YOU CAN BUY A WOLF TAG AND SHOOT ONE. And yet, you only killed about 60 percent of the statewide quota for 2011. Is it too difficult? Do you need someone to do it for you? Maybe, like elk hunting, it requires you to get out of your trucks or off of your 4-wheelers to do it right. Quit whining and put your money where your mouths are. "Smoke a pack a day", "Shoot, shovel, and shut up." Shut up indeed.
  3. reality22
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    reality22 - April 03, 2012 3:52 pm
    dmgold said "Elklover and Reality 22, you;re both wrong. I procured from FWP a table of Montana elk hunting districts at the end of 2010, showing that 80 percent of them are AT or ABOVE population objective. (To be fair, I subtracted out all of the Region 6 and 7 units, since there are no wolves in those regions, and recalculated, yet still, a full 77 percent of the remaining elk units were AT or ABOVE objective.)"


    Ha ha ha ..... ignorance at its finest You think that removing the Elk in region 6 and 7 gets you down to the units that are having issues with wolves???? Even Region 3 has areas with units that don't have saturated wolf populations.... Scratch your experiment & get a clue... Overlay a 2006 wolf pack map on the elk zones and only include those zones that have saturaded packs.... Then use the 2004 elk population data to the 2011 data. Findings will overwhelmingly show that remote elk and moose areas in trouble! Quit your cherry picking ..... this side of the fence is saying "wolf saturated areas" are having issues with game herds declines. These areas happen to be the more remote areas where wolves are less likely to meet an SSS demise.
  4. Jdee
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    Jdee - April 01, 2012 11:30 am
    I also care about moose and the killer wolves have devastated our moose populations. One moose permit in HD340 how stupid. We need an extensive wolf control program in Montana. Mountain lions and poor FWP management has put us nearly out of mule deer management.FWP will get a complete overhaul with a republican governor the sooner the better Brian is a failure.
  5. Jdee
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    Jdee - April 01, 2012 11:24 am
    Nick is a fool and totally uneducated on the subject of wildlife management. Is this the view of the Montana Standard? Nick writes for the radical environmentalists and those who opposed hunting. Being an eastener and tranplant he has never hunted elk in HD 313/314. That was a good hunt not a slaughter. If the Standard is reducing employees Nick should be at the top of the list! Nick is uninformed and radical in his views and represents poor journalism.
  6. Maverick
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    Maverick - March 30, 2012 10:50 am
    Gevock's first wolf article a few weeks ago strongly hinted his colors. Yesterday's article confirmed it. It shows how out of touch and ignorant he really is. Come on...This is our outdoors writer for SW Montana? Shame on the Montana Standard. I'd hoped that he would educate himself and his readers on the overall picture with Canis Lupis and the huge effect they CAN have on big game populations if allowed to do so. There are volumes of factual information out there. Study what game departments and sportsman in Alaska, Yukon, BC, NWT, Nunavut,many other provinces and mant States have confirmed. There must be strong responsible control of wolf numbers as well as all predators including hunters. Look into our own MDFWP and find out what really is thier wolf program. They have a much better managment program for both species of bears and for mountain lions and as a result, finally the black bear seasons are being extended dramatically, Lion quotas are being encouraged to be increased and grizzly bears need to be delisted and allow a responsible Grizzly bear hunting season to open.

    Years ago the RMEF would not take a position on the wolf reintroduction issue. This angered many sportsman. They recognized the predator threat and have come out strong in favor of aggressive management of wolves and other predators. They are putting thier money where thier mouth is. Offering funds to MDFWP is a wise choice. Ask yourself, where does the funding for Montana Wildlife Services come from? Who are they you ask? Government Trappers around for 100 years. This is who MDFWP calls when thier is a predator problem in many cases. Thier duties are to help the livestock industry reduce losses to predators. Investigate all livestock losses to predators for state compensation program, capture or removal of offending predators.
    Last year thier budget in MT. was roughly 2.7 million. MDFWP contributed only 4% to that budget yet they are our management for all wildlife in MT. They used to contribute MUCH more. Guess what thier annual budget is? 40 million plus.

    Gevock, you seem to think there is no problem with wolves, predators etc.. and thier won't be going forward and that we have plenty of elk. Yes there are places with healthy numbers of elk but NOT where there are to many predators including hunters. Don't insult the good sportsmen and women of Montana. Go back to Wisconsin. They have plenty of wolves for you to cuddle up with.
  7. elkguy
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    elkguy - March 30, 2012 9:41 am
    I guess nobody else cares about the moose, but i miss seeing them.
  8. Elklover
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    Elklover - March 30, 2012 8:38 am
    dmgold - 77% of the units are at or above objective? That means that almost a quarter of the units in the western half of the state are below objective. Seems to me that you and I are saying the same thing, you just don't see it as a bad thing I guess. Wait until the wolves start to move into some prime elk winter ranges that they haven't really hit yet, such as the Elkhorn Mountains. Trust me, they will spread. And I'm not saying that they are the only reason for low elk numbers in 23% of the state, but they need to be greatly reduced BEFORE they are the sole source of damage. I bet you the units that are below objective are the ones I was referring to in the first place. I'm sick of this attitude saying that there isn't a problem yet so nothing should be done. Look at cow/calf ratios, what do you think is going to happen once the older animals start dying? There are no younger elk to replace them in a lot of areas. We may be at objective now, but throw that out the window in 4 years when there are no younger elk to replace the old ones. Its simple logic.
  9. blackmidge
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    blackmidge - March 29, 2012 10:01 pm
    Putting this in perspective, the U.S. elk population consists of 6 sub species, the Roosevelt, Rocky Mountain, Tule, Eastern Canadian and Leopold (the last two are very small populations). 24 states have elk of one specie or another, Colorado has the highest population at 300,000, however combining Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah’s elk populations sit right at 495,000. The other 17 states populations combined is around 340,000 animals. With all that said 835,000 elk do not reside in Montana, Idaho, or Wyoming. In other words 365,000 elk reside in the northern Rockies tri state region or roughly 30% of the national elk population. Predators in the tri state region do have a major impact on elk populations, PETA’s relentless anti-fur campaign has kept coyote pelt prices suppressed for decades, houndsmen tend to tree far more lion than they shoot, and the gradually increasing Grizzly bear population all together take their toll on elk populations.
    The wolf dilemma has been exasperated by bigoted eco groups, and a sympathetic judge, which now has left the tri state region behind the 8 ball and facing a wolf population that is still increasing even though hunting has begun. I do not mind having wolves in the tri state region, however it is my belief that we could do with far fewer wolves than we have today, along with a more comprehensive predator approach across the board. Nick you are a reporter, put your personal views in your desk drawer and report the whole story next time, your last two articles have been way to wolf friendly. We have a wolf problem, 5 years from now we will have a huge wolf problem, it took a bounty and 100 years to exterminate them the first time it won’t be any easier this time either.
  10. yetty
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    yetty - March 29, 2012 6:53 pm
    you all can sit here and argue,just one thing.Everyone here ......go shoot a wolf,or 2 or 25.Its really the best answer.
  11. dmgold
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    dmgold - March 29, 2012 4:31 pm
    Elklover and Reality 22, you;re both wrong. I procured from FWP a table of Montana elk hunting districts at the end of 2010, showing that 80 percent of them are AT or ABOVE population objective. (To be fair, I subtracted out all of the Region 6 and 7 units, since there are no wolves in those regions, and recalculated, yet still, a full 77 percent of the remaining elk units were AT or ABOVE objective.)
    Sure, there are few individual places where elk are in decline and where biologists think that wolves may be one factor in that. However, overall, elk in the N. Rockies are doing well. There is no such thing as “widespread decimation of elk herds” that we hear about from David Allen and others. Unfortunately, all of this explosive rhetoric from groups like the RMEF and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (SFW) keeps the average hunter focused on predator control. It leads sportsmen away from where we should be focusing, which is habitat protection for elk and all wildlife, and most damaging of all, it drives wedges between hunting and the non-hunting conservationists.
  12. reality22
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    reality22 - March 29, 2012 2:24 pm
    Shame on you Nick...... Most of the informed people in this post understand that you are looking at whole state statistics and not areas infested with wolves. The countless areas that are examples of predator pits on remote public places are proof of the trouble that is brewing. In general most of the areas that have increased there elk population are on private lands. Most of those people want the elk in that environment & the FWP does not take into consideration the food that PRIVATE land owners is willingly providing the wildlife. I applaud RMEF for recognizing the big problems in wolf infested areas! Despite what you say an elk herd that is 80% of what it once was and has calf to cow ratios below 25% is in trouble and not healthy!
  13. Elklover
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    Elklover - March 29, 2012 2:01 pm
    sorry, that I meant to say 1 wolf for every 20 elk... forgot the zero... typo
  14. Elklover
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    Elklover - March 29, 2012 1:58 pm
    If you pick a broad enough area, it is easy to say that elk numbers are up. If you pick a narrow enough area, such as the Bitterroot, it is easy to prove that elk numbers are WAY below a healthy status. The problem is, wolves aren't everywhere. Where wolves show a strong presence, elk numbers are down. That is a fact. Where elk numbers are up in the state is where the FWP issued late season hunts, damage hunts, and multiple elk tags, are predominantly on private land. A lot of it is land that is closed to hunting or outfitted. Private land is also where the majority of wolves have been killed in the past (I'm not referring to hunting, I'm referring to the wolves the state and landowners have killed due to livestock predation). Its a lot safer for the wolf to feed on elk on public land than anything on private land, so that's where they are a lot of the times.

    Nick, you've seen a litter of puppies right? Dogs aren't like elk, they have LITTERS. The RMEF is more than justified in its offer, and I plan to give what I can help in the effort. Its called PREVENTATIVE action. We have to do something BEFORE every elk herd is like the herd in the Bitterroot or Gardiner.

    If I also broaden the area regarding wolf numbers, I can make an accurate statement saying there are upwards of 70,000 wolves in North America. If we have 1.2 million elk, that's not even 2 elk for every wolf. See? This is what Nick did, he broadened the discussion area and gave facts that helped his point. While they may be facts, they were shown in a bias fashion. You can't look at the state as a whole, you have to narrow it down and specifically look at each range or valley.
  15. dmgold
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    dmgold - March 29, 2012 12:34 pm
    Nick is dead-on, with his facts and his opinion. If you don't believe him, go see page 83 of the Sept-Oct 2009 issue of Bugle, where REMF admits elk populations in Montana are UP 60 percent since 1994 (pre-wolf), and up 16 percent in the 3-state region. They are milking this cash cow for all its worth.
    IMO, this is because RMEF predominantly represents wealthy, out-of-state trophy hunters who don't want to work for an elk, and who miss those easy pickins that Nick is talking about.
  16. Absaroka Hunter
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    Absaroka Hunter - March 29, 2012 12:23 pm
    Well said, Nick, and spot on. RMEF is just as shameless as the groups on the far left who are making money screaming about "wolf slaughter." What elkguy, jgrdh11 and their irrational wolf-hating ilk want for Montana is to be little more than a glorified elk farm. Might as well change the name to Montana Fish, Elk and Parks. Let's see: 3 million cattle, 30,000 elk and maybe 650 wolves in Montana. Yeah, wolves are a problem ...
  17. jgrdh11
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    jgrdh11 - March 29, 2012 10:56 am
    Nick, you are clearly a tree hugging fool!! Also, why is this so called "article" posted anywhere but in the opinion section??? This is not news, it's nothing but sierra club propaganda.
  18. elkguy
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    elkguy - March 29, 2012 8:52 am
    Hey Nick, you must be related to Doug Smith as everything you spout echos his rhetoric. The elk herd is healthy? I lived in Gardiner for 20 years and can tell you that before wolves, when there were 20,000 elk, hairless scabied elk were extremely rare. Since wolves they are now common. Why don't you do a little research and find out how many moose are left in the Yellowstone area? I still spend all my rec time down there and haven't seen a moose track in years. You, sir, have no idea what you are talking about. My hat is off to David Allen, the first president of the RMEF in 25 years with the stones to tell the truth.

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